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Man deemed unfit to stand trial for homicide

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A Ronan man who was facing a deliberate homicide charge for shooting and killing his son-in-law last October had the charge against him dismissed. James Stephen Deaton, 78, was deemed permanently unfit to stand trial after two mental health evaluations. He was accused of shooting his son-in-law, Jim Lewis, 65, who had come to his apartment on Oct. 8, 2019, to make sure he was taking his medication for high blood pressure, according to court records.

Deaton allegedly told investigators that his son-in-law had grabbed the barrel of a rifle that Deaton had just loaded and it went off striking the victim in the head killing him instantly. 

Deaton admitted that his finger was on the trigger when the gun went off. Deaton stated that he loaded the rifle in front of his son-in-law and his son-in-law should have known not to grab the gun. Investigators say there was no indication of a struggle.

Deaton made his court appearance via Vision Net from the state hospital in Galen, while his attorney, Britt Cotter of Polson, teleconferenced on speakerphone from Cotter Law Office, along with Deaton’s daughter – who is also the wife of the victim.

District Judge Deborah “Kim” Christopher set an involuntary-commitment hearing for March 31.


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